Compassion in the Mirror


I'm having a Morning, if you know what I mean. I used to call them Sieve Days --the days when I can feel all of the holes in my psyche. All the places where my confidence in my goodness runs through, all the places where I'm not solid --not fully baked. When I doubt the path I've chosen and the life I've made and I have a fleeting desire to just...leave it. Run away and start again and become someone completely different.

As if.

So, I did the things I do. 

I made my bed.

I brushed my teeth and put on earrings.

And then I did this other thing I just started doing. I looked in the mirror--really looked to connect with myself --and I gave myself a little fist bump. (Well, I actually do something else but it's hard to describe. It has the same energy as giving myself a high-five or a fist bump, though.)

I just started making that a part of my day. This is day 15.

I watched a webinar a few weeks ago about the neurobiology of compassion with Juliane Taylor Shore, who is one of the people I admire most in the field of psychotherapy. I've taken numerous trainings with her and this one had some big take-aways. At some point during the Q and A, someone asked how to interrupt the relentless inner critic, and Jules said (essentially) we have to imprint our faces on a celebratory action in order to associate ourselves with it. We have to change the lens through which we see ourselves to one of positivity and compassion and that one way to do that was by high-fiving ourselves.

I know. 

I really know. 

I LOVE Jules and at that point, I rolled my eyes so hard, I could almost see my brain. But it's JULES and she has the science to back up anything she says AND she showed a picture of her bathroom mirror and said it was covered with handprints. 

So, okay then, off to the mirror.

And truly, something is beginning to shift for me. For one thing, I realized that I almost never actually look at myself in the mirror. Maybe to see if I have something in my teeth or my shirt is on inside out, but even then, I don't see all of me and I am certainly not connecting with myself, nor feeling anything positive.

When I started to slow down and really look at myself, I began to see myself with compassion. Compassion for this human who is struggling with her body and so weary. Compassion for how hard she is trying to get all of this (gestures broadly) right. I could see how I carry the stories of a lot of people with me and that they are heavy. I can see that my superpower is loving everyone around me, but that I'm not loving myself.

I began to change how I think about myself, so that the Sieve Days are fewer and when they happen, I can bring myself back home to myself. I can slow down and interrupt my inner critic and extend some kindness to a friend who is figuring some stuff out --a little late to the party, but with her dancing shoes on.


ccr in MA said…
It's funny how things work sometimes, isn't it? You think, "That can't possibly help" and then somehow it does.
Unknown said…
Plant a tiny seed, give it water and sunlight and watch it grow into a mighty tree, not overnight, but little by little. Today I’ll give myself a high five in the mirror and see how this seed grows
Barb Matijevich said…
I meant to say in the post that you are supposed to do whatever you do for 21 days straight to change your brain. There is actual science and brain scans to back this up. Just feels a little... I don't know...too simple, maybe? And yet here I am, noticing its efficacy.
Jen B said…
I've learned over the years that the kinder, more compassionate, and more loving I am to myself, the better I feel about everything.

I've been struggling with body image issues for several months, all related to my changing post-50 body and my recent breast reduction. I have ZERO regrets about the reduction, but the overall change to my silhouette has been huge in my eyes and I'm adjusting to it. Recently, I've had to take some time from my full-length mirror, so I took it down for a couple of weeks. I re-hung it yesterday with the idea that now I'm going to look at myself, really look at myself, and remind myself about all the ways my body has been amazing: childbirth, recovery from various surgeries (including learning how to walk after significant ankle and Achilles surgery two years ago), and more. I'm going to start reminding myself of how amazing human bodies are, including mine.